Washington Times Oversells Former PCP Dealer at Metro
Strong story by Luke Rosiak (formerly of the Post) at the Washington Times today. The first in a three-part series on institutional dysfunction at WMATA called “Culture of Complicity,” the article focuses on discrimination and a go-along-to-get-along culture at the transit agency. Much of the article covers discrimination against white women working at the agency, and the promotions they say they were denied.
Rosiak’s story depends on finding bad Metro employees who are being promoted or receiving special treatment while better workers languish. If white women aren’t getting promoted at Metro, then, who is? Convicted drug dealers, that’s who, according to Rosiak.
Former PCP dealer Robbie O. McGee, now a senior supervisor at Metro, appears multiple times in the story as an example of Metro’s screwed-up approach to meritocracy (see the above screenshot from Document Cloud). Here he is in the story’s second paragraph:
In typical examples, court and Metro records show, a black man who spent eight years in prison for dealing PCP was promoted to a high-level management position soon after his release, and whites in the same positions as blacks with far less seniority are inexplicably paid less.
And later on, as one of a dozen senior supervisors in WMATA:
Also rising rapidly to senior supervisor was Robbie O. McGee, who spent eight years in federal prison for felony distribution of PCP while on probation for another crime. He received five pay increases at Metro in two years.
Rosiak also promoted McGee’s role in the story on Twitter:
But McGee’s story isn’t as sensational as Rosiak and the Times make it out to be. McGee was sentenced in 1988 for intending to distribute more than 100 grams of PCP, according to court documents posted by the Times. That’s a lot of PCP, but it also happened nearly 24 years ago.
McGee was sentenced to eight years in prison in late 1988, so let’s say he got out from his eight-year term in 1997 (Rosiak writes in an email that he got out in the “late 90’s”). McGee was hired by WMATA in 2000. That would be three years after he got out of prison, if he got out in 1997—hardly the “fresh out of prison” hire Rosiak claims on Twitter.
In the article, Rosiak writes that McGee was promoted to senior supervisor “soon after his release.” In a 2011 deposition, McGee says he was promoted approximately four years ago, so around 2007. McGee was promoted ten years after he was released from prison—does that really qualify as “soon after his release”?
Rosiak writes that McGee received five pay increases in two years. In an email, Rosiak writes that McGee received three pay raises in 2005, one in 2006, and one in 2007. While such frequent raises seem a little unusual, the earliest one comes five years after he was hired. Absent more context, the reader can’t tell whether McGee’s raises are symptomatic of a problem at WMATA.
Robbie O. McGee could be the worst employee in Metro history, or he could be God’s gift to Richard Sarles, but there’s no proof in the story either way. Unfortunately, the Times and Rosiak fail to prove that he didn’t deserve to be hired, promoted, or given salary raises, instead relying on a 24-year-old conviction to spice up their story and build McGee up as a foil for overlooked employees. It’s a shame the Times decided to build part of this story on a rotten beam, because some of the rest is solid.
I’m looking forward to seeing more from Rosiak’s series. In an email to DC Porcupine, Rosiak says the series isn’t primarily about race, but about a powerful group in Metro.
"In tomorrow’s story I will show, for example, that this club mostly live in Prince George’s county, etc. and even District blacks have trouble getting in,” he writes.